Start Bowe, Rice in Week 4
Throw it up and let “players make plays.” That appears to be the M.O. of this new-fangled NFL. I knew that it had become a passing league in the past several seasons, but seemingly every quarterback is raring back and logging massive numbers in 2011.
Jason Campbell has a 300-yard game on the books. Matt Hasselbeck has recorded two of them, as has Jay Cutler. Cutler runs for his life seemingly every play, and Chicago games are better white-knuckle viewing than most horror offerings.
It’s a mad world. Let’s leap into October with some of the heroes catching the ball. I’ll start in Kansas City. I have no fear.
Exclude: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Hakeem Nicks (back on the injury report), Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
Week 4 Heroes
Dwayne Bowe, KC vs. Minnesota: Throw it up and let the big receiver make plays against this secondary. You saw it in Week 1 with Vincent Jackson. You saw it in Week 3 with Calvin Johnson. Let your big receiver get out and make plays.
I do expect the Vikings to bring heat on Matt Cassel and I’m certainly not anticipating a world-beating effort. But, I’ll take them to get off of the schneid (my dictionary tribute to my FSR colleague Tomm Looney). That only occurs if Bowe goes into “beast” mode as he did during the 2010 season. He did score in Week 3, so there’s hope.
Lance Moore, NO at Jacksonville: Marques Colston will reportedly return (check the injury reports on Sunday morning and start him if he goes), so Moore may lose a look or two along the way. I still believe that Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson will be more directly impacted. Moore caught all nine passes for which he was intended in Week 3 and score. He’s the best red zone target of the trio, so he gets the nod against the Jacksonville secondary.
Nate Washington, TEN at Cleveland: Washington elevates to the No. 1 slot this week against Cleveland. I don’t like the matchup with Joe Haden either, but I’m not running and hiding. Washington is not merely a burner downfield like he was in Pittsburgh years ago. His game has rounded out and he has Matt Hasselbeck’s trust.
Steve Smith, CAR at Chicago: Smith was limited to two catches for 15 yards in absolutely dismal weather conditions against Jacksonville. He looks for a better day against the Chicago secondary that routinely struggles against speed wideouts (go watch Devery Henderson sprint freely in a green field again, if you must).
Santana Moss, WAS at St. Louis: Moss’ huge run against the Cowboys slowed in Week 3. He registered just five receptions for 70 yards in the narrow loss. I expect to see him running deep early and often against the St. Louis secondary that is still chasing Torrey Smith. Fire it up downfield and let the speedsters make plays.
A.J. Green, CIN vs. Buffalo: Green failed me last week when I promoted him to a “Hero” slot He won’t disappoint me for a second straight game.
The Buffalo pass defense ranks 24th in the NFL (271.7 yards and 2.3 touchdowns allowed per game). I’m calling for Andy Dalton and the Bengals to rise up at home this week. Green needs to be active downfield for that to happen.
Sidney Rice, SEA vs. Atlanta: Rice returned to action in Week 3 and posted eight catches on targets for over 100 yards. I know it was the Arizona pass defense, but I’ll put some trust in Rice’s talent against the Falcons (261 yards allowed per game).
Denarius Moore, OAK vs. New England: Moore didn’t post huge receiving output in Week 3 against the Jets (four receptions for 34 yards), but he found the end zone with a 23-yard touchdown run in the upset win. Moore is on the radar this week for a big effort (if only for a play) against this heretofore awful New England secondary. The return of Jacoby Ford also helps his cause. Somebody just needs to remind Jason Campbell that he has the arm strength to utilize these speed receivers that Al Davis likes so much.
I also ask this simple question. How did they not find a way to get Torrey Smith to Oakland as well?
Julio Jones, ATL at Seattle: You saw it last week. The breakout game for Jones occurred in a loss (six receptions for 115 yards). I’m anticipating another strong effort this week against the Seattle secondary.
It’s an “identity” game for the Falcons this week. The first three weeks taught us nothing (Chicago, Philadelphia and Tampa). They looked terrible in Weeks 1 and 3 and gutted out a hard-fought win over the Eagles.
Deion Branch, NE at Oakland: Branch amassed 15 receptions for 222 yards in the first two weeks of the season. Somehow, Branch was left out of the high-scoring affair in Buffalo last week. He failed to catch a pass.
Look for Branch to get back in the mix as Brady and the Patriots recover from the loss. I do still like the Oakland defensive front, but that secondary has been beaten regularly.
Anquan Boldin, BAL vs. New York Jets: The emergence of Torrey Smith in Week 3 kept Boldin above the proverbial “yellow” line this week. It’s not a great individual matchup, but the need to eye Rice out of the backfield and contend with this new speed threat does portend to more space for Boldin to operate.
Don’t forget. Antonio Cromartie might also be missing from the secondary.
Mario Manningham, NYG at Arizona: If he plays, Manningham makes your lineup against the sieve-like Arizona pass defense. I don’t believe I need to belabor the point.
Mike Thomas, JAC vs. New Orleans: It’s hard to get excited about the Jacksonville passing game. Can I throw Thomas into the mix as a WR3 option for you? Thomas has amassed 15 receptions for 139 yards through three weeks with a touchdown in the quagmire that was Carolina in Week 3.
Thomas is hardly a beast, but he’s going to pile up targets on a weekly basis. The Saints are going to put up points, without a doubt. That puts Blaine Gabbert into “Hail Mary” mode and, well, we remember Thomas’ heroics in 2010.
Week 4 Ninja Alerts
Jacoby Ford, OAK vs. New England: Speed kills. We’ve seen speed kill the Patriots with great regularity early in 2011. Ford is expected to return opposite Denarius Moore and warrants a look-see as a third wide receiver, particularly for those owners already seeing a sea of red in their lineups.
Kevin Walter, HOU vs. Pittsburgh: Walter returned to the field last week against the Saints and scored. He’s a “Ninja” favorite this week against the Steelers. The Colts had ample opportunities to make plays downfield against the Pittsburgh secondary in Week 3. They either dropped passes or the quarterback over- or under-threw his intended target. The Texans are back at full strength this week, and that allows Walter to slide under the radar with opportunities in man-coverage.
Johnny Knox, CHI vs. Carolina: I tabbed Jay Cutler as my “QB Start of the Week” in my video contributions to FOXSports.com this week. Chris Gamble is banged up and Roy Williams is … Roy Williams. Knox caught four passes for 84 yards in Week 3 and has caught a pass of at least 25 yards in three straight weeks. It’s not pretty to watch, but the yards pile up for Cutler. He’s set for a cleaner sheet in Week 4.
Victor Cruz, NYG at Arizona: The highlight hero of Week 3 is on the radar for Week 3. Hakeem Nicks was added to the injury list because of a knee issue (swelling mid-week) and Mario Manningham returns from the concussion sustained in Week 2. As a result, Cruz is on the radar to see a high target count against a weak Arizona secondary.
If nothing else, he earned a few more targets downfield after posterizing Nnamdi Asomugha in the end zone.
Eric Decker, DEN at Green Bay: Decker still produced a solid PPR effort in Week 3 against the Titans with seven receptions for 48 yards. Brandon Lloyd will have his hands full (maybe a big play makes for a strong day), but Decker can find space in intermediate patterns and extend drives. He’s logged 15 receptions for 214 yards through three weeks.
Pierre Garcon, IND at Tampa Bay: Garcon has his chances in Week 3, but failed to make the most of them. He caught a total of six passes for 82 yards overall. I still groan when I ponder the missed deep ball opportunity (errant throw). Garcon is the big winner with Painter set to start.
Anthony Armstrong, WAS at St. Louis: I’ll just say this. Torrey Smith.
Week 4 Flop Alerts
Brandon Marshall, MIA at San Diego: Marshall has averaged a dismal 61.1 yards per game with one touchdown in eight career starts against the Chargers. He’s averaged six receptions per contest, but that’s little consolation to owners in standard leagues.
The Chargers have allowed 203 net passing yards and two touchdowns per game. Still, following a strong showing in Week 1 against what we now know to be a terrible New England pass defense, the Miami offense has regressed markedly. Marshall ranks as a low-WR2 play, but I’m not confident of a big effort following the cross-country flight.
Mike Williams, TB vs. Indianapolis: Williams has amassed 10 receptions for 89 yards through three weeks. Things have just not clicked for Williams and Josh Freeman thus far. I do anticipate a Tampa Bay win for Week 4, but I don’t expect to see the Tampa Bay offense click. Indianapolis will get the pass rush hopping against Freeman this week. Start Williams as a WR3 if you need to, but don’t expect fireworks.
Reggie Wayne, IND at Tampa Bay: Wayne was targeted 13 times in Week 3 against the Steelers. Inefficiency and erratic throws from Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter limited Wayne to three catches for 24 yards. He’ll continue to see a high target count this week despite the attention from Aquib Talib. Just don’t expect huge returns, even though he’ll get the guy he campaigned for throwing to him (Painter).
Brandon Lloyd, DEN at Green Bay: Lloyd has started the “throw me the damn ball” chatter this week following a lackluster return to the field against Tennessee. Lloyd has amassed 10 receptions for 127 yards in two games this season, and the reconnection with Kyle Orton has yet to be established.
The Green Bay pass defense has been terrible overall, but I’m not convinced that Orton and Lloyd are going to be able to solve Charles Woodson in coverage. Start him as a low-end WR2.